INTERVIEW: cleopatrick on their debut album, BUMMER
It's here: our most anticipated debut album of all time, BUMMER, has been released into the wild by alt-rock revolutionaries Luke Gruntz and Ian Fraser, otherwise known as cleopatrick.
The Toronto duo soared into the public awareness in late 2018 following the astounding success of blistering singles hometown (2017) and youth (2018). Since then, the pair have gone from strength to strength, with several headline US, UK and European tours under their belt, supports for the likes of grandson and Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, as well as consistent support from BBC Radio 1, Spotify, and Amazon Music.
Late last year we had our first dive into the world of BUMMER with single GOOD GRIEF, described by the band as "a double-edged sword meant to cut down those phonies, and unite our allies with a single swing. It’s here to strike fear in the hearts of our enemies, while simultaneously throwing an arm around our friends, introducing them to the new sound we have spent the last year-and-whatever totally obsessing over."GOOD GRIEF was followed by singles THE DRAKE, FAMILY VAN, and 2008. All works of art in their own right, they tantalised our eardrums and worked up our insatiable appetite for a taste of the full album.
BUMMER opens with VICTORIA PARK, showcasing Ian's beautifully punchy drum beats, building in that classic cleopatrick tension that ebbs and flows through the track, until reaching an explosive peak in the bridge. The lyrics reflect the small town predicament of being stuck in a social media trap with people from your hometown that you don't give a fuck about anymore (and probably never did). “From the moment we wrote VICTORIA PARK we knew it would be the opening track on BUMMER," says Luke. "It's the sonic mission statement for our debut album... It's named after a real Victoria Park here in Cobourg, Ontario. A place where Ian and I have both spent countless summer days and nights throughout our lives. It's a green space that was named after Queen Victoria in an effort to impress the crown, during a time when this was a town that was so young and prosperous, they truly believed they could be chosen as the capital of Canada. Standing here today in what is now a sleepy rural retirement community, I feel a strange sense of tragedy lingering around this park. In my eyes, it is a monument to long lost ambition, and for that reason, it inspires me."
THE DRAKE follows a similar local theme: it was written about a traumatic 2017 gig at The Drake Hotel in Toronto where some assholes from their high school turned up and started punching people in the mosh pit. A firm favourite with the cleopatrick veterans amongst us - this gritty, fuzz-laden feast always kicks the fuck off at shows, and once you hear the bridge, you'll understand why.
GOOD GRIEF hits with a dirty, fuzzy, and recognisably cleopatrick rock riff that'll have you bopping up and down within seconds. When the chorus fires up, all the layers of the track mould together to form the most poetic, disemboweling noise you've ever heard. You might notice a little ZIG MENTALITY flavour to the tune - every track on BUMMER was fully written, recorded, and produced by Luke and Ian, along with ZIG frontman Jig Dubé. There was no bullshit involvement from a label or any big name producers - "just 3 kids with some fuzz pedals and a point to prove. We chose to make this album in Jig’s basement, because we wanted to show the kids that come to our gigs that you don’t need to sign a major label deal, or assimilate with the modern “rockstar” phonies in order to make it. In fact it’s quite the opposite. All you need is some good friends and a little vision."
NO SWEAT showcases the formula for the perfect cleopatrick song: an incredibly catchy melody, fuzz (and a lot of it), expertly-executed percussion, distorted basslines and abrasive hip-hop dalliances. Discussing the struggles around figuring out your place in the world and achieving your full potential, the boys capture the anxiety plaguing an entire generation in less than 3 minutes.
WHY JULY initially slows things back down, lulling you into a false sense of security before you're absolutely battered by the outro. YA is an atmospheric 30 second interlude that gives you time to regroup before PEPPERS GHOST tears you apart all over again. Pepper's Ghost is an illusion used to create the appearance of things that aren't really there, and the track highlights the idea of not knowing what (or who) is real or fake, in an age of keeping up virtual appearances and hollow social exchanges.
2008 is a stand-out track on the album, with stripped-back production which allows you to focus more on the meaning behind the lyrics. Despite this, it still fits perfectly into the world of BUMMER, and almost encapsulates that title. “2008 is the most honest moment on this album,” says Luke. “It’s the most vulnerable cleopatrick song, and consequently, it’s the song that means the most to me out of anything I’ve ever written."
GREAT LAKES rounds off our BUMMER journey perfectly. Centred around a killer riff, it solidifies the duo's ability to create a shit-tonne of noise with just two instruments. With notions of self-doubt and trying to stay true to yourself in a world of fakes, it withholds those juicy riffs we crave just the right amount - so that when the chorus comes around you feel perfectly satisfied, and ready to fuck up a sweaty venue with your best mates. And ultimately, that's exactly what cleopatrick are about.
"Making BUMMER, we actively spoke about it as if it would be the only chance we ever had to make an album. With this in the back of our minds, every note we played and every line I penned carried a tremendous weight. BUMMER is meant to capture what could be our "famous last words". It's meant for us as much as it's meant for our audience. It's our time capsule. It's our Voyager-1. It's our Victoria Park."
With its feet firmly planted in hometown nostalgia, the album still reaches for something more, something better, outside of Ontario provincial borders. It viscerally captures the fears, rage and hope that comes with being in your early 20s. It's relatable, honest, gritty, and melancholic - yet ironically is just about as far as it gets from actually being a bummer. We fucking love it.
And so, we reached right back into Ontario to chat to Luke about the release.
Hey Luke! Congratulations on BUMMER. How does it feel to finally have an album out after so many years of playing together?
It’s so surreal. I think partly because we haven’t SEEN our audience in person for over a year now and we are only experiencing this release through our phone screens — but also because there has been such a long-winded emotional build to this moment. We’ve been imagining this album since the day we started this band. It’s mind-boggling to us that everyone has it on their phones now.
How do you think this album is going to impact not only your careers, but also your sound going forward?
I don’t think Ian and I have thought about the career thing too much. We are just way too stoked to have some more songs to play live now, after touring off 2 EP’s for 3 years lol. I like to think this album will solidify our intentions as cleopatrick, and act as a cornerstone for the tours, gigs, and records that will follow.
Sonically, BUMMER is the first time we’ve felt we sound like ourselves on record. We produced this album with our friend Jig Dubé (of ZIG MENTALITY) in a basement last summer. That experience, and the fact that the album is out now, and our people really like it, has given us an insane amount of confidence moving forward. We are going to keep exploring our sound and trying to grow things with each release. We want to be an album based band, where each project marks a new era, new aesthetic, and new message.
What would you say the central theme of BUMMER is?
BUMMER is about honesty. It’s about trying to be real. the majority of these songs play through as tunes you can mosh with your friends too, but lyrically, the album is a total BUMMER. It’s supposed to entice a listener with surface level sonic confidence, and then slowly peel back the defensive layers of the narrator with each track, until the initial opening confidence has morphed into fragility and vulnerability right under your nose.
What aspect of the album are you most proud of, and which songs are you most excited to play live?
We are tremendously proud of the sound we captured on this album. These 10 tracks manage to distill the chaos and intensity of our live show with a very distinct accuracy. I know for some people this level of energy is NOT what they want from their guitar music. But Ian, Jig, and I were, frankly, very uninterested in making an album that sounded like any other band or reference other than ourselves. We didn’t want to to the cookie cutter “track, mix, print, sell” thing. It’s old. So we committed to finding the sound we all heard in our heads - something fresh and uniquely ours for this new decade of guitar music.
I’m most excited to play THE DRAKE now that people know the words, and NO SWEAT because that outro is going to level venues.
Those first few gigs back after lockdown are going to rip the fucking roof off. You know we'll be there!
Listen to BUMMER on Spotify and Apple Music
Join the NRM at a show near you
Review and interview by Courtney Myers
Photography by Kurtis Watson